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Virgin Money London Marathon
Photograph: Virgin Money London Marathon

London Marathon 2020 to be elite-only race held in St James’s Park

No gorilla costumes allowed

Laura Richards

When the London Marathon 2020 was officially postponed in March, just before lockdown, well, that’s when we knew that shit was about to get real. Organisers could see no way ahead for the annual springtime event, which normally draws more than 40,000 participants and massive crowds to the capital’s streets. What was due to be the fortieth race in the Marathon’s history was postponed from Sunday April 26, with a new date scheduled for Sunday October 4. 

With the fresh date approaching faster than a runner in a Mr Blobby suit, Virgin Money London Marathon organisers have shared further details on the shape of the re-imagined race. It’s due to go ahead on Sunday October 4 as planned, but for elite runners only.

Men, women and wheelchair athletes will race 26.2 miles of laps of a circuit within St James’s Park – the course is described by organisers as a ‘secure biosphere’ likened to Formula 1 racing. Although the race will be broadcast on the BBC as usual, there will be no spectators at the event. And no furry gorilla costumes, we figure. Times set by racers will be eligible for Olympic qualification.

Not one of the elite? Everyone who had a place for the 2020 Marathon is being invited to participate from wherever they are in the world – and will be awarded a medal for completing a marathon-distance run. A new app is being developed so that runners can track their race, which they’ll have a 24-hour window to complete. Should that not satisfy, participants and their chosen charities can also defer their place in the race for the London Marathon in 2021, 2022 or 2023. And if 2020’s placed runners don’t want to take part at all, other people can apply to take their place.

Last year, the event raised £66 million for charity, so officials are encouraging people to participate at a time when the charity sector desperately needs the funds. ‘We believe that Sunday 4 October will be a London Marathon like no other, and The 40th Race will take the spirit of the world’s greatest marathon to every corner of the globe, with runners raising vital funds for the charities that have been so severely affected by the economic effects of the pandemic,’ said Hugh Brasher, event director of the Virgin Money London Marathon.   

Organisers have also announced that the London Marathon 2021 will take place on Sunday October 3 instead of the usual April date, in the hope that the mass event will have a better chance of returning in its full form.  

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